How to embed children’s rights approaches in policymaking

Children's Rights Alliance for England (CRAE), a Eurochild National Partner Network, produced a briefing on embedding a children’s rights approach in policymaking following a research on existing barriers and solutions.

The research found that only organisations consisting of children’s rights experts who had children’s rights as part of their core ethos or aims were currently using an explicit children’s rights approach to policy. 

This meant that other organisations felt they did not always need to take a children’s rights based approach, particularly in a difficult external context. 

They were however, more likely to use the CRC (UN Convention on the Rights of the Child) in legal casework, strategic litigation, or for lobbying on a piece of legislation. The CRC is a uniquely powerful tool as it sets out a binding, universal minimum standard and framework for accountability for how children should be protected and treated. 

The barriers 

The most common complaint from participants was that the CRC was too legalistic and technical and that it did not necessarily add value in policy work as it can over complicate matters. This was combined with a lack of understanding of the CRC.

The fact that the CRC is not incorporated into UK law and England also does not have a public sector statutory duty to have due regard to the CRC, as in Scotland and Wales, was seen as a key barrier to using the CRC as a lobbying tool. Organisations were unclear how to make effective use of it in their lobbying.

The biggest barrier to taking a children’s or human rights approach was seen to be the pervasive anti-human rights agenda and narrative, common amongst some politicians and media

Anti-international rhetoric and a feeling that ‘why do we need international organisations telling us what to do?’ was also seen to be common amongst the public as well.

The fact that children’s rights approaches were more commonly used in certain sectors such as the refugee or criminal justice sectors concerned interviewees as they felt this served to perpetuate the myths spread by the press that human rights and children’s rights are only for certain groups of “undeserving people” rather than for everyone.

The benefits 

Interviewees said that a clear benefit was being able to use human rights to frame children’s rights. This was particularly because the courts use the CRC to interpret the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) in cases concerning children. 

For further information:

- Download the full briefing, which contains 19 recommendations on how to embed a children’s rights approach to policy making and two practical examples. 

- For more details: NWilliams(at)crae.org(dot)uk